In 2019, real estate investment company Sun Terra Communities went on a buying spree in the Horizon West community, snagging up 400 acres with a plan to transform the assemblage into a mixed-use development called Silverleaf consisting of thousands of housing units and nearly a million square feet of commercial space.
Jacksonville-based Dream Finders Homes has signed on to this vision in a big way with three separate projects in the early stages that would bring as many as 442 homes to the Sun Terra tract, located west of Avalon Road within the red-hot Hamlin development district.
“This is huge for us,” Matt White, land acquisition manager with Dream Finders told GrowthSpotter. “We’ve had great success in the Hamlin corridor and we continue to look for more opportunities out there. We look forward to bringing some of the vision that is Hamlin to life and ultimately bring the area more of our Dream Finder product.”
The first DFH project in the Silverleaf area is expected to see completion by the first quarter of 2023. It’s for a community of 96 townhomes called Hamlin Ridge slated for a 11.3 acre parcel that runs along Avalon Road, north of Lake Ingraham.
On an adjacent 10 acres to the south, Dream Finders is planning to place another 53 detached single family homes.
Further south, on the other side of Lake Ingraham, on a 66.7 acre parcel, the home-builder has laid out its newest, largest project within the Silverleaf parameters. Expected to go before Orange County’s planning staff for review on Wednesday, the not-yet-named project consists of 294 homesites with a mix of detached dwellings and townhomes.
It sits adjacent to where Valencia College is set to build its new campus.
The promise of that collegiate energy next door motivated Dream Finder to pursue higher density with the hope it will attract a diverse mix of residents in a “live, work, play” environment.
“We want to market this to all kind of buyers who are looking to move into the community,” Steven Thorp, land entitlement manager with Dream Finders, told GrowthSpotter.
And a lot of people are moving to this community. The surge in residential growth in Horizon West prompted the Orange County School District to build a new elementary school and middle school combo on land just west of where Dream Finders is planning its townhome community.
The new schools, Hamlin Elementary and Hamlin Middle School, are intended to relieve overcrowding at Whispering Oak and Water Spring elementary schools and Bridgewater Middle School.
According to school district data, Water Spring’s enrollment has climbed from 973 students in 2019 —when the school opened — to 1,179 this school year, and increase of 21 percent. If a new school wasn’t built, the school’s enrollment is projected to have reached 2,660 by 2032, a 72 % increase.
The new schools are expected to be complete by June.
Sun Terra Communities paid $42 million for the 400 acres of property in 2019. At the time, leaders with the investment company told GrowthSpotter their reasoning behind such a lofty purchase.
“As a submarket, Horizon West is the hottest market in the county. That’s what attracted us,” said Sun Terra Principal Richard Jerman. “It will be commercial, apartments or multifamily, attached and detached single family. We’ll probably do two multifamily sites. The commercial will probably break down more as office uses, since most of the retail is over at (Hamilin Town Center).
Along with Dream Finders, Meritage Homes has also committed to subdivisions within Silverleaf. In 2021, the Arizona-based builder paid $22.8 million for 200 acres within Silverleaf where it’s currently planning out the second phase and third phase, consisting of 317 residential units across a mix of single-family homes and townhomes.
Meanwhile Dream Finders has been busy in other areas of Horizon West. The company has recently submitted development plans for a 184-lot single-family home subdivision at 5859 Avalon Road. The lots will be a minimum of 40 feet wide.
Just a short distance away, Dream Finders Homes is building out its 177-lot Wincey Groves at Hamlin residential community, located northwest of New Independence Parkway and Avalon Road. Dream Finders Homes is also behind the 151-lot Lakeside at Hamlin neighborhood that launched in the summer of 2021.
Dream Finders Homes was founded by CEO, Patrick Zalupski, in 2008 and has become one of the nation’s fastest-growing homebuilding companies. It closed 6,126 homes in 2021, nearly doubling the number of sales in 2020 and moving it up seven spots to 17th on Builder Magazine’s Top 100 Builders list. DFH builds homes in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, Virginia and Maryland.